The digital transformations to football did not take place only in terms of media and the consumption of sport through the different social media platforms – or it evolving to the sport metaverse; but also to football itself. During the last years professional football saw the introduction of the video assistant referee (VAR), especially making it to the world stage for the first time during the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia. While VAR has the potential to transform football, the question that remains is if football fans like VAR.
In a recent published paper [free open access here], Dr Jan Andre Lee Ludvigsen [from Liverpool John Moores University] and myself tried to answer if football fans like VAR by analysing the comments left in the different highlight videos uploaded by FIFA in their official YouTube channel during the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup [link here to the playlist]. After automatically collecting over 300,000 comments from 31 games where VAR was used or should have been used according to media pundits, what we have found was that football fans during the World Cup mostly disliked VAR.
Around 60% of the comments [from a representative sample of all comments mentioning VAR] by fans were negative, and within all the comments mentioning VAR [4,035] there were three main areas of negativity towards the decision-aid technology: favouring bigger nations; non-neutrality of technology; VAR is killing the Beautiful Game (football).
In sum, football fans disliked VAR and broadly associated the technology to wider issues with modern football such as commercialisation and mediatisation, and ultimately blamed FIFA for its implementation and further sanitisation of football. VAR was seen by football fans as another tool used by FIFA to favour bigger nations in footballing terms – the ones attracting more audiences – and also nations with players who are recognised in the world stage.
And what about you, as a football fan do you like VAR?
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